Tag Archives: African American

African Americans and the Kentucky Derby: A Long and Storied History

African American Jockeys Kentucky Derby

Jimmy Winkfield rides Alan-a-Dale in the Kentucky Derby in 1902.

“Today will be historic in Kentucky annals as the first ‘Derby Day’ of what promises to be a long series of annual turf festivities of which we confidently expect our grandchildren, a hundred years hence, to celebrate in glorious rejoicings.”—Louisville Courier-Journal, May 17, 1875

As we look forward to the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, we are reminded that it is impossible to talk about the “greatest two minutes in sports” without also talking about African American history. The two are inextricably tied. Of the fifteen riders at the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, thirteen were black, including the winning jockey, Oliver Lewis. Lewis rode Aristides to victory with the help of trainer Ansel Williamson, a former slave.

In the early days of American horse racing, many of the jockeys were slaves, who, after emancipation, continued working as trainers and riders for their former owners. Black jockeys won half of the first sixteen Derbies, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight, and most of the trainers were African American as well.

Baden Baden horse Edward D. Brown

Baden Baden was trained by Edward D. Brown, and ridden to victory by Billy Walker in the 1877 Kentucky Derby.

There was plenty of fame and fortune to be found for successful trainers and riders. At the third Kentucky Derby in 1877, the rider-trainer duo of Billy Walker and Ed “Brown Dick” Brown, guided Baden-Baden to a win. Ed Brown was one of the most successful trainers in the country and famous for his expensive suits and large bankrolls. Brown’s career in racing spanned more than 30 years as a jockey (who won the Belmont Stakes in 1870), a trainer, and as an owner. His horse, Monrovia, won the Kentucky Oaks in 1893. His filly, Etta, won in 1900. He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1984.

Some of the best-known names of the era were the jockeys. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton still holds the record as the youngest-ever Kentucky Derby winner. At the age of 15, he won the 1892 Derby astride Azra. Isaac Burns Murphy was very well respected by his fellow jockeys, trainers, owners, breeders, and fans across the country. He was the first jockey to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies. James “Jimmy” Winkfield almost eclipsed Murphy’s record in 1903, when he placed second in what would have been his third Kentucky Derby win in a row.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Winkfield was also the last African American to win the Kentucky Derby. Since 1911, when Jess Conley finished third, only three other black jockeys have ridden horses in the Derby. As James C. Nicholson writes in The Kentucky Derby:

“In fact, black riders were forced out of the sport by jealous white jockeys and bigoted owners and trainers in an increasingly racially biased American society whose court system had given official sanction to various Jim Crow laws by the end of the nineteenth century. As the Derby became increasingly popular on a national scale in the twentieth century, blacks still played indispensable roles in the lives of racehorses and the sport of horse racing. But grooms, hot-walkers, and stable hands operated far from the spotlight that would shine ever brighter on top athletes, including jockeys.”

This Saturday, as the riders take their mounts and as we celebrate the horse-trainer-jockey team who take their victory lap around the winners circle, take a moment to remember history and the men who should never be forgotten.

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This post originally appeared on our blog on April 26, 2015.

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Galley Giveaway: Let’s Get Fictional #1

UKY01 Birds of Opulence Selected.inddAs our fans and followers may have noticed, we have some exciting works of fiction due out this Spring. We’ve had the pleasure of working on them for months now, waiting for this moment—the time when we finally get to share them with you!

From now through 5:00 pm Eastern on Wednesday, January 13, enter for a chance to win one of five available advance reader copies of The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson. Fill out the form below to enter our contest and read this compelling tour de force before it’s published next month.

Also, click “read more” below to enjoy the first chapter of the work that Pulitzer Prize finalist Maurice Manning has called “lyrical and visionary, unconventional, and infused with beauty.”

Continue reading

Cats Facts: Nat Northington

Nate Northington

Nate Washington, the first African American football player in the SEC. Credit: Louisville Courier Journal

This afternoon, the University of Kentucky announced a plan to build four statues honoring the lives and legacies of Greg Page, Nat Northington, Wilbur Hackett, and Houston Hogg–the first four African-American football players at UK and in the South Eastern Conference (SEC). Who were these young men? Two of them were Kentuckians by birth.

To celebrate this announcement, we hope you will enjoy learning a little bit about Nat Northington from his entry in The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia.

Northington, Nate “Nat” (b. 1947, Louisville, KY), football player.

Nate “Nat” Northington was born to William E and Flossie in Louisville, Kentucky on October 17, 1947. He was an outstanding high school football player. His junior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Louisville, he led the team in touchdowns. His senior year he excelled in academics as well becoming an officer and member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society. He was recruited by the University of Kentucky (UK) as a wideout receiver alongside Greg Page, also African-American, with the intent of being a model for other Southern schools to integrate their athletic teams. The recruitment process was led in part by former Kentucky Governor Edward T. Breathitt, who at the time was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at UK.

In 1967, Northington’s roommate Greg Page suffered a neck injury during practice which left him paralyzed from the nose down. Page would die thirty-eight days later from his injuries. The next afternoon, Northington would break the SEC color barrier as a wideout receiver for UK in a home loss to the University of Mississippi. On September 30, 1967, he became the first African-American football player to play in a game in the Southeastern Conference, an athletic conference openly reluctant to racially desegregate.    Northington would then leave the UK in the following weeks after the Mississippi game. Being the only black varsity player, Northington expressed the loneliness and distress that he felt, “I can tell you every brick in my room. All I do is talk to my walls.” Shortly after leaving the team in 1967, he transferred to Western Kentucky University where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After graduation, Northington headed the Bowling Green Housing Authority and later was a staffer at the Louisville Housing Authority. He would eventually become the regional director of property management with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority and serve as licensed minister at his church.

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia is available now from your favorite bookseller or www.kentuckypress.com.

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville

The editors of The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia will participate in a panel discussion this Wednesday, August 19 at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville at 6:00 pm. Sponsored by the Filson Historical Society, editors Gerald L. Smith, John Hardin, and Karen Cotton McDaniel will present individuals, events, places, organizations, movements and institutions that have shaped Kentucky’s history. Admission to the event is FREE. For more information on the event, visit FilsonHistorical.org. For more information on The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia, or to purchase the book, visit KentuckyPress.com.

from WHAS 11 Great Day Live (click for video)

WHAS Mack McCormick University Press of Kentucky Kentucky African American Encyclopedia

Today, We Remember

Memorial Day

As we take this Memorial Day to remember those who gave their lives to protect and defend our country, we wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the holiday that takes the time to reflect upon and appreciate the contributions of our armed forces.

The History:

Today, Memorial Day honors all veterans, but the holiday was originally called Decoration Day, and was created in reverence to those who lost their lives in the Civil War. General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran’s group born out of the Cvil War, first declared the holiday in 1868, proclaiming:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or Memorial Day Propagandaotherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. . . .

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

Memorial Day Propaganda5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery on the first Decoration Day in 1868. After World War I, Decoration Day was re-designated to honor the fallen American soldiers who died fighting in any U.S. wars. Memorial Day, as it came to be known, was only officially recognized as a national holiday in 1971, and is now observed on the last Monday of May each year.

The Traditions:

  • When raising the American flag on Memorial Day, it is to be raised quickly to full-mast, and then lowered slowly and solemnly to half-mast. At noon, the flag is to be raised to full staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country, and the full-staff position represents the raising of their memory, and a commitment to not to let their sacrifice be in vain.

American Flag Memorial Day A young boy holds a Poppy in Montreal, Wednesday, November 7, 2012.  THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes.

  • Many American’s think of the British people wearing red poppies on Armistice Day (November 11, which coincides with our American Veteran’s Day), but the memorial red poppy originated in the U.S. and are a traditional decoration for Memorial Day. Inspired by the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael wrote a poem of her own:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Moina was the first to wear a poppy in remembrance, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. A Frenchwoman traveling to the U.S., heard of the custom, and began selling artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. The tradition soon spread to other European countries, and in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.

  • Many cities and towns across the U.S. hold Memorial Day parades. Ironton, Ohio, puts on the nation’s oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade. The first parade was held May 5, 1868, and the town has held it every year since.
  • In 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or commemorating as they choose at 3 pm on Memorial Day.

As some families gather to remember a relative’s service, or others gather for Memorial Day parades, cookouts, or picnics, please take a moment today to remember those who lost their lives in service to all of us, and those who continue to sacrifice for our country every day.

We’re Poets and We Didn’t Even Know It

It has been a real treat for us at UPK to share with our followers some of our favorite poems from our authors including Joe Survant, Frank X Walker, and George Ella Lyon for April’s National Poetry Month. I think we can all agree that their amazing talents make writing poetry look easy. Our English professors will tell you on our behalf that it is not.

bourbon poetry

     Images via Google

That rhymes, right?

Today we are spotlighting a Hopkinsville native who has made a profound impact on the country as one of the nation’s leading intellectuals: bell hooks. As an author, activist, feminist, teacher, and artist, hooks’ works reflect her Appalachian upbringing and feature her struggles with racially integrated schools and unwelcome authority figures.

In Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks continues her work as an imagist of life’s harsh realities in a collection of poems inspired by her childhood in the isolated hills and hidden hollows of Kentucky. At once meditative, confessional, and political, this poignant volume draws the reader deep into the experience of living in Appalachia.

Appalachian Elegy

Keep reading for excerpts of this sensational book and collection of poems!

1.

hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the way
guide us
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay dirt
rock upon rock
charred earth
in time
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
native flowers
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection

19.

all fields
of tobacco
growing here
gone now
man has made time
take them
surrendered
this harsh crop
to other lands
countries where
the spirit guides
go the way
of lush green
leaving behind
the scent of memory
tobacco leaves
green yellow brown
plant of sacred power
shining beauty
return to Appalachia
make your face known

If you’re interested in reading more from the captivating bell hooks, you can buy the book on our website or check out her Facebook page!

One for the Road: A Final Poem from “Appalachian Elegy”

Our giveaway is done and a winner has been selected (congratulations, Joel C.!), but we thought we would leave you with one more excerpt from bell hooks’s Appalachian Elegy:

1.Appalachian Elegy

hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the way
guide us
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay dirt
rock upon rock
charred earth
in time
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
native flowers
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection

Thanks to everyone who entered our contest! Stay tuned for another giveaway next week. (Hint: 204 years ago next Tuesday, a famous American was born in LaRue County, Kentucky.)